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What has a car park ever done for you?

Shopping centre managers have a varied and wide range of responsibilities—which may or may not directly include the car park—but at the very least you should be aware of, and quite possibly work with, the car park operator to ensure customers are able to park near to your centre destination.

And of course in amongst the demands of a typical day it can be too easy to forget about anything beyond the doors of the centre.

But let's ask the question: where does the customer experience start?

We would argue that it starts in the journey to the destination. There should be a shared aim to have guests arrive at the shopping destination in a relaxed, happy frame of mind—ready to enjoy their retail experience.

Arriving frustrated and flustered because the traffic was bad and they had to drive around the car park for 15 minutes to find a space does not make for happy customers! And research tells us that unhappy customers naturally tend not to make the biggest spenders.

So, as a centre manager what can you do to help provide a positive parking experience?

Of course giving the visitor plenty of information to help them find available parking spaces is one thing. Providing signage on available space counts, indications of space per level and ensuring mother and toddler and disabled spaces are used correctly is vital for a visitor to the shopping centre.

And the great news is once these types of user information flows are set up and operational there are lots of extra benefits to be gained for the centre management team themselves.

Car parking solutions such as Clearview's Insight software will not only monitor and manage the signage and information given to visitors, but also provide real-time and periodic reporting to the operator of the car park.

The live feed can provide crucial management information on developing situations such as identifying if there are vehicles overstaying time limits, formation of queues or incorrect use of disabled bays. Also if one part of the car park is full then the system can automatically change the information feeds to the users to send them to the areas where spaces still exist. This is all about providing the user with the information to find a space quickly and with no fuss.

The periodic reports that the system can generate include the basics of numbers of cars, utilisation rates and peak usage times. But they can also provide great data and intelligence on the overall use of the car park.

It can show heat maps of the most used areas over the course of days or weeks and can highlight anomalies of use. For example people using your asset to go to a nearby football match, the cinema over the road, or as a long stay commuter car park. The system can also provide data to help prove business cases when more parking may be required, or if a similar new development needs proof for the number of spaces allocated in the plans.

Perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of intelligence that can come from these reports is that of dwell time—how long people are choosing to stay in the car park.

Could this kind of data provide a centre management team with greater insight on shopping habits? For example, if a longer average dwell time indicates more spending or simply they are stopping for a coffee? Does dwell time after closing hours indicate use of the car park for other purposes such as going to the cinema?

Combining dwell time with the utilisation information can highlight other sales improvement ideas such as parents who are regularly coming to the shops after the morning school run, so perhaps point of sale can be positioned differently to catch their eye?

Of course each and every shopping centre will have its own unique variances and requirements for parking. But perhaps, in taking some time to look at how to make the parking experience better for the guest, there are also great spin off benefits to be had for the shopping centre management team.

Call +44(0)1869 362800 or email us, and lets have a conversation about how we could improve your parking experience.

Author: Andrew R |Date Published: July 2016

Links: Parking

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